What Matters and Who Matters in Green Space Design, by Amelia Holmes
Over the past few months, as part of my dissertation for my Ecological Economics Master’s Programme, I have been planning and carrying out research on the Meadows – what it means to people, what it provides nature, and how it brings us all together as a community.
In this project I want to understand what matters to people who have an active interest in the Meadows, including those who organise the volunteering in the community garden, exercise and sports groups, cultural groups and those who participate in mindful and religious practices there. I also want to investigate how we might form shared visions and future prospects for the Meadows.
Traditionally, urban parks have been seen through quite an anthropocentric lens and designed as such. This means many studies of greenspaces tend to focus on benefits to humans, such as physical health, mental health and social interaction. All of these are valid and important considerations to use as a guide for green space design and management.
But what is becoming increasingly apparent, particularly with the increased dialogue in policy around re-wilding, biodiversity, and nature-based solutions, is the need to re-assess how we engage with and talk about nature in urban design. So, I placed particularly emphasis on nature in my interview questions, as well as other often neglected values such as social values and community cohesion. Particularly, we talk about what we perceive about other species we share the park with, and what these species might find safe and appealing about our beloved Meadows that they call home. Finally, we discuss what an ideal, utopic version of the Meadows would look like and why – what would be different and what is perfect just the way it is?
I am excited to continue having these discussions about urban green space and learning about the rich diversity of activities that take place in the Meadows, as well as creating space to talk about our relationship to the non-human world. And I am very glad to be meeting inspiring people and making friends along the way!
Photo courtesy of John Lanigan